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Our website is all about motorcycles, especially BMW cycles. We cover rides in the Southwest and Mexico, motorcycle modifications and review motorcycle products. 

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Filtering by Category: "BMW maintenance"

Spark Plugs and Motorcycles

Tomas Perez

New plug in the middle
Spark plugs have changed so much over the years. When I was young we tried changing spark plugs on US cars about every 10,000 miles. Back in those days it was easy to tell when the car was in need of new spark plugs and it was certainly easy to see worn spark plugs upon inspection. The typical signs that the plugs were bad were hard starting, miss-firing when accelerating, and bad cold weather running. Worn plugs have an increased gap. That makes it much harder for the spark to jump the gap. Increasing the compression only makes the problem worse. This increase of resistance now places additional stain on all the other parts of the ignition system including the rotor, distributor cap, and spark plug wires. Old timers will remember dealing with carbon tracks, cracks in the distributor cap, and glowing spark plug wires in the dark. In this article I'm only talking about spark plugs with an increased gap. I am not considering all the other problems you can have with plugs like broken components, oil soaked, soot, wrong heat range, loose wires, etc.

Well... those days are gone... for the most part. We don't have distributors (no cap or rotor) and many engines don't even have spark plug wires - they just place the coil on top of the spark plug. But the spark plugs are still a main part of our engines. Sometimes I think spark plugs are the forgotten step child of the engine maintenance procedures. People know about changing oil and filters but the spark plugs are left for last or totally forgotten. Many of my car driving friends never change the plugs until something happens. Recently one of my friends said "I just changed the plugs and three coils on the Ford".

I'm one of those guys that "forgot" to change the sparks plugs on my 2010 RT. I have a couple of excuses but that doesn't matter now (although I wonder why they were never changed at my dealer/mechanic provided services). The fact is that I rode my bike for 32,000 miles on the original set of plugs. I guess one advantage of dual plugs on the recent BMW boxer engines is that we can milk the plugs to the very end. The bike ran fine but look at the pictures above and below. You can see the center and side electrodes severely worn. The wire gauge I just used to measure the gap only goes up to 0.040 of an inch and it still had plenty of room left. At least 50% more gap.

Another view
I purchased the OE plugs for my bike. I'm not sure if there is a better spark plug for my bike but I figured BMW did their research and testing that's required with each of their engines. I am very disappointed on the way this spark plug is built... especially for a plug with a retail price of about $24 each. They simply welded on the side electrodes and then bent them over towards the center. That places the inside edge close to the center and most likely at the required gap. This method, in my opinion, presents several problems. First, the edge presents a sharp edge for the spark to jump to - it's the closest point to the center. Second, because it is a fine edge and all the sparks are jumping to that point it soon wears down. As it wears the side electrodes present a wider surface for the spark but by then the required gap is long gone. You can see what I am talking about in the pictures. The center is worn also but the sides are worn much more.
My idea on how they should be built

For $25 I think we should get the configuration shown above. Of course that means our spark plug companies won't sell nearly as many spark plugs as they do now. Look at some of the high end auto spark plugs and you see very well designed electrodes. The edges, if there are any, are not the closest point to the center electrode. The main objective is to be equidistant at all points.
Anyway, back to my bike. It feels like it's running better but it could be a placebo effect since I changed the spark plugs myself and feel like I did a wonderful job. In the future I'm changing the plugs as recommended by BMW or at the least every 20K miles.

Now at 38,000 miles I think I better change the alternator belt. I already have it - just need to do the work.

My Break-In Procedure: BMW R1200RT

Ricardo Perez

Start With Wine
In Case You Missed the Name
Wine Fact Sheet
Irma and I started my bike's break-in procedure the right way, toasting to the new bike with a surprisingly good bottle of wine, if you see kay . After finishing that bottle I got on to the business of doig the break-in on my new BMW 90th Anniversary Edition R1200RT . We had trailered the bike down from Austin on Saturday; a nice 660 round trip in one day. Sunday afternoon I took the bike out, escorted by my brother on his 2010 RT. We rode 150 miles and followed the break-in procedure recommended by MotoMan; a controversial procedure of hard accelerating to 5500RPMs and then down shifting to either 3rd or 4th and repeating the process. We did this repeatedly the first 25 miles and then more randomly the next 125 miles.   On Monday we rested. Tuesday we took it out for a 210 mile ride repeating the process, but I had increased the RPMs to 6500 after the first 120 miles. That day I also started using the cruise control a little so as to give myself a break.
I must say that I'm very impressed with the bike. It's got plenty of power for me, especially in the upper RPMs and it just hums along at 80mph without any effort. It's a new bike so the mileage at 80mph was running at 39.8 miles per gallon and in the 40s at slower speeds. I think we were right at 4,000rpm while doing 80mph.
Moto Hank's BMW Service in Dilley, TX
Those two days of riding totalled 360 miles then on Wednesday it was off to Dilley, Texas to have Hank of Moto Hank's perform the 600 mile service. We arrived in Dilley with 608 miles on the odometer and only 6 miles of fuel in reserve. We rode from the north side of Edinburg to Dilley, about 210 miles or so, on one tank of gas. The first service is important, but fairly simple, mostly change the crank oil and the final drive oil, check for faults and that's about it. Of course, I had Hank, a certified BMW service tech, sign and stamp my Owner's Manual.
We got back home about 7:30pm with an additional 482 miles for Wednesday. So I have 842 total miles on the bike this first half-week.
While we were at Hank's we met Frank Voellm from Stuttgart, Germany who's taking a few years to ride the world. You can check him on on Face Book and track his travels. He's been in South America and had just crossed over from Mexico on Tuesday after traveling extensively in Mexico. He had his GS bike in for repairs and new rubber before heading out to San Antonio. His plans are to head towards Florida and up the East Coast as weather permitted. He was then shipping his bike to Bangkok as he continues his world tour. He was an interesting guy to chat with and you always meet interesting guys at Hank's.
Just before lunch another rider, Albert from Medina joined us. Albert is 72 and still doing plenty of riding. He shared with us stories about his nice collection of motorcycles. That day he was riding his BMW cruiser for some maintenance work.
On our way up we rode to Freer then northwest to Encinal to catch I35. We can do 80mph on I35, but it's loaded with truck traffic coming and going to Mexico via Laredo. So on the way back on we took Hwy 624 from Cotulla to North of Freer. It's about a 60 mile ride with lots of fracking going on, but we had some entertainment as a pair of fighter jets went over us four times. They were low enough to where the jet engines roared. I don't know if they were just checking out the bikes or on maneuvers, but it was sure neat seeing them fly by. Somehow they didn't seem to have any trouble catching up to us!
Frank's World Touring Bike
Another nice road from Freer to Falfurrias is highway 339 which runs about 60 miles. It's actually free of fracking trucking so it's fast and more comfortable than Hwy 44 from Encinal to Freer. We decided to get on the expressway 281 as we headed back, trying to avoid the back country at night when all things wild come out and play on the blacktop.

The 2010 and 2013 RTs in Falfurrias, Texas

Tomas, Frank, & Albert
Notice Frank from Stuttgart Germany is right at home in 60 degree weather in his short sleeve shirt and sandals!

Here She Is - All Serviced Up Until the 6,000 Mile Mark

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BMW Service Woes

Tomas Perez

Pancho & Tomas 

I'll have to post my own experience with my last BMW dealer service visit. I don't look forward to bashing one of our very few dealers but the purpose of this blog is to help fellow riders in any way we can. To be fair we need to publish both positive and negative experiences with dealers, Internet stores, equipment, etc.

I kept a record of dates and times but I'll just recap in this posting. I've yet to return to the dealer and see if he can make good on my last service request. I called my dealer (where I purchased a new 2010 R1200RT) on a Saturday and schedule a warranty service in 2 weeks time for a Thursday. I scheduled Thursday because I had a rally not too far from the dealer's location for Friday through Sunday. My service request was pulsating front brake, gas gauge not accurate, and cruise control switch not working except for the on function.

Since my dealer is about 260 miles away I need a very early start in order to get there in the late morning and still give them most of the day to work on the bike. I can't afford to leave the bike there for day or even weeks so I schedule my visits and tell the service dept as much as I can in case they can order the parts ahead of time (normally they don't).

1) I get there at about 10:30 AM on Thursday and the service manager tells me that nobody scheduled my service and there was no way he could service my bike since he had no parts for it. He talks to the parts guy and tells him to order all the parts. If he orders before mid afternoon he can have the parts in overnight. I tell them I will go on to my destination but can return Friday or Saturday if the parts are in.

2) I call Friday morning to see if the parts are in. Parts guy says they are not in but should be in later on Friday. He goes on-line while I am on the phone to check shipping status. Therefore Friday is out as a service day. Maybe Saturday...

3) On Saturday I call again. No parts came in. They tell me that they did not get in on Friday and they don't get shipments on Saturday. I start to go into oh-oh mode. This does not sound normal. I've dealt a lot with shipping and these companies are good. Seldom do they not meet deadlines. I tell the dealer that I will not return home on Sunday and instead hotel it for a day and wait for Monday service.

4) Rally ends Sunday morning and I ride to dealer's town and get a room for the night. This is my second time for a room. Remember, I had to get one for Thursday also.

5) Early Monday morning I go to the dealer's and wait for parts and they take some parts off of my bike. The status is a) that the rotors are within spec's and will not be replaced. b) their bike computer is not working so they cannot check the fuel strip. They want to check it before replacing it. c) the cruise control switch did not arrive. The SM suggests that I wait while the "main office" helps them fix their computer (diagnostic system I presume). At least the fuel gauge problem will be addressed.

6) After waiting about 6 hours I start to push for answers since I haven't heard anything from them. It's 4PM and I ask where the "main office" is located. I learn it is on the east coast. I ask the SM "well aren't they close by now?". He says yes.

By this time I am very upset. Only a few items were off of my bike like saddle bags and tank bag. I wonder if they even had any intent to service my bike. One reason I think that is the case is because the SM walked around the shop asking guys if they could work on my bike when I first got there in the morning. I told the service manager that I wasted two days and $215 on hotel bills for nothing! I expressed my displeasure for a few minutes before I rode off. By now it is just past 5pm meaning I am hitting the peak of rush hour plus I will be getting home at about midnight or later.

My friend with an identical bike needs some service on his RT and asked me if I was over my incident so that I can ride up with him. I told "not really.. but I need to take my bike back". We don't have too many options on dealer service. We have to live with what we got for any warranty work.

I just think the dealer (Service Manager) had so many better options but he elected to do about the worst thing he could have done. At least replace the fuel strip. We BMW guys know that only too well. He said he wanted to calibrate it first to see if that fixed the problem. Or at least tell me that he could not have fixed it and I would not have wasted the entire day in his lobby! And how could he service all the other bikes in the shop without his computer system? Perhaps they were in mundane maintenance mode that week.

This too shall pass...

Update - Feb 17, 2012
Drove to dealer for fuel strip problem and cruise control switch.  Fuel strip was replaced but the wrong switch was ordered.  The right switch was ordered and over night delivery was requested.  I was asked to stay another day which I did.  On Saturday, Feb 18th I went back to the dealer only to discover that the part was not making it to the dealer until Monday.  Two more days of hotel rooms was not worth the wait.  My hotel bills have now far exceeded the cost of the switch.

Update - Mar 2, 2012
Took the bike back to the dealer for the cruise control switch.  Since I was there last the horn button also quit working.  That makes 3 switches on the left side that quit working (the first was the wind shield switch).  All is good now... finally.